Michael Cates

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Michael Cates
Professor Cates in 2012
Born Michael Elmhirst Cates
(1961-05-05) 5 May 1961 (age 56)
Citizenship United Kingdom
Fields Physics
Soft matter
Institutions University of Cambridge
University of Edinburgh
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Doctoral advisor Sir Sam Edwards
Notable awards Maxwell Medal and Prize (1991)
Paul Dirac Medal and Prize (2009)
Weissenberg Award (2013)
Bingham Medal (2016)

Michael Elmhirst Cates FRS FRSE (born 5 May 1961) is a British physicist. He is the 19th Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and has held this position since 1 July 2015.[1] He was previously Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, and has held a Royal Society Research Professorship since 2007.[2]

His scientific work is varied, but focuses on the theory of soft matter, such as polymers, colloids, gels, liquid crystals, and granular material. A frequent goal is to create a mathematical model that predicts the stress in a flowing material as a functional of the flow history of that material. Such a mathematical model is called a constitutive equation. Recently he has worked on theories of active matter, particularly dense suspensions of self-propelled particles which can include motile bacteria. He is increasingly interested in fundamental field theories of active systems in which time-reversal symmetry (T-symmetry, and more generally CPT symmetry) is absent. Such theories are characterized by nonzero steady-state Entropy production. Another recent interest is the flow of shear-thickening suspensions such as dense solutions of corn-starch or custard powder in water; this work was presented in a recent public lecture.[3]

At Edinburgh Cates was the Principal Investigator of an EPSRC Programme Grant, awarded in 2011, entitled Design Principles for New Soft Materials.[4][5] On his departure for Cambridge, Cait MacPhee took over as Principal Investigator. Cates remains an Honorary Professor at Edinburgh.

Early life[edit]

Cates was born on 5 May 1961.[6] He read Natural Sciences and earned a PhD at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1985, where he studied with Sam Edwards.

Academic career[edit]

Cates was a Research Fellow and Lecturer at the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge before moving to Edinburgh in 1995.


Cates won the Bingham Medal of the US Society of Rheology in 2016.[7] He had previously won the 2013 Weissenberg Award of the European Society of Rheology [8] and the 2009 Gold Medal of the British Society of Rheology. He was awarded the 2009 Dirac Prize by the Institute of Physics. He won the 1991 Maxwell Medal and Prize. He has served as an elected member of the Council of the Royal Society, and chairs the International Scientific Committee of ESPCI ParisTech. He was an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge from 2013 until 2016 when he became instead a Senior Research Fellow.


Michael Cates has over 300 refereed scientific publications. His H-index is 85.

Highly cited publications include:

  • Theory of the Grafted Polymer Brush, ST Milner, TA Witten and ME Cates, Macromolecules 21, 2610-2619 (1988)
  • Statics and dynamics of worm-like surfactant micelles, ME Cates and SJ Candau, Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter 2, 6969-6892 (1990)
  • Reptation of living polymers: dynamics of entangled polymers in the presence of reversible chain-scission reactions, ME Cates, Macromolecules 20, 2289-2296 (1987)
  • Rheology of soft glassy materials, P Sollich, F Lequeux, P Hebraud and ME Cates, Physical Review Letters 78, 2020-2023 (1997)
  • Jamming, force chains, and fragile matter, ME Cates, JP Wittmer, JP Bouchaud and P Claudin, Physical Review Letters 81, 1841-1844 (1998)
  • Multiple glassy states in a simple model system, KN Pham et al, Science 296, 104-106 (2002)
  • Colloidal jamming at interfaces: A route to fluid-bicontinuous gels, K Stratford et al, Science 309, 2198-2201 (2005)
  • Statistical Mechanics of Interacting Run-and-Tumble Bacteria, J. Tailleur and M. E. Cates, Physical Review Letters 100, 218103 (2008)